Most people and Government Agencies do not want this information
generally known. Nor do the Born-Again Christian movement, cults,
and many human-potential trainings.
Everything I will relate only exposes the surface of the
problem. I don't know how the misuse of these techniques can be
stopped. I don't think it is possible to legislate against that
which often cannot be detected; and if those who legislate are
using these techniques, there is little hope of affecting laws
to govern usage. I do know that the first step to initiate
change is to generate interest. In this case, that will
probably only result from an underground effort.
So, to begin, I want to state the most basic of all facts
about brainwashing: IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF MAN, NO ONE HAS
EVER BEEN BRAINWASHED AND REALIZED, OR BELIEVED, THAT HE HAD
BEEN BRAINWASHED. Those who have been brainwashed will usually
passionately defend their manipulators, claiming they have
simply been "shown the light" . . . or have been transformed in
The Birth of Conversion
CONVERSION is a "nice" word for BRAINWASHING . . . and any
study of brainwashing has to begin with a study of Christian
revivalism in eighteenth century America. Apparently, Jonathan
Edwards accidentally discovered the techniques during a
religious crusade in 1735 in Northampton, Massachusetts. By
inducing guilt and acute apprehension and by increasing the
tension, the "sinners" attending his revival meetings would
break down and completely submit. Technically, what Edwards was
doing was creating conditions that wipe the brain slate clean so
that the mind accepts new programming. The problem was that the
new input was negative. He would tell them, "You're a sinner!
You're destined for hell!"
As a result, one person committed suicide and another
attempted suicide. And the neighbors of the suicidal converts
related that they, too, were affected so deeply that, although
they had found "eternal salvation," they were obsessed with a
diabolical temptation to end their own lives.
Once a preacher, cult leader, manipulator or authority
figure creates the brain phase to wipe the brain-slate clean,
his subjects are wide open. New input, in the form of
suggestion, can be substituted for their previous ideas.
Because Edwards didn't turn his message positive until the end
of the revival, many accepted the negative suggestions and
acted, or desired to act, upon them.
Charles J. Finney was another Christian revivalist who used
the same techniques four years later in mass religious
conversions in New York. The techniques are still being used
today by Christian revivalists, cults, human-potential
trainings, some business rallies, and the United States Armed
Services . . . to name just a few.
Let me point out here that I don't think most revivalist
preachers realize or know they are using brainwashing
techniques. Edwards simply stumbled upon a technique that
really worked, and others copied it and have continued to copy
it for over two hundred years. And the more sophisticated our
knowledge and technology become, the more effective the
conversion. I feel strongly that this is one of the major
reasons for the increasing rise in Christian fundamentalism,
especially the televised variety, while most of the orthodox
religions are declining.
The Three Brain Phases
The Christians may have been the first to successfully
formulate brainwashing, but we have to look to Pavlov, the
Russian scientist, for a technical explanation. In the early
1900s, his work with animals opened the door to further
investigations with humans. After the revolution in Russia,
Lenin was quick to see the potential of applying Pavlov's
research to his own ends.
Three distinct and progressive states of transmarginal
inhibition were identified by Pavlov. The first is the
EQUIVALENT phase, in which the brain gives the same response to
both strong and weak stimuli. The second is the PARADOXICAL
phase, in which the brain responds more actively to weak stimuli
than to strong. And the third is the ULTRA-PARADOXICAL phase,
in which conditioned responses and behavior patterns turn from
positive to negative or from negative to positive.
With the progression through each phase, the degree of
conversion becomes more effective and complete. The way to
achieve conversion are many and varied, but the usual first step
in religious or political brainwashing is to work on the
emotions of an individual or group until they reach an abnormal
level of anger, fear, exitement, or nervous tension.
The progressive result of this mental condition is to
impair judgement and increase suggestibility. The more this
condition can be maintained or intensified, the more it
compounds. Once catharsis, or the first brain phase, is
reached, the complete mental takeover becomes easier. Existing
mental programming can be replaced with new patterns of thinking
Other often-used physiological weapons to modify normal
brain functions are fasting, radical or high sugar diets,
physical discomforts, regulation of breathing, mantra chanting
in meditation, the disclosure of awesome mysteries, special
lighting and sound effects, programmed response to incense, or
The same results can be obtained in contemporary
psychiatric treatment by electric shock treatments and even by
purposely lowering a person's blood sugar level with insulin
Before I talk about exactly how some of the techniques are
applied, I want to point out that hypnosis and conversion
tactics are two distinctly different things--and that conversion
techniques are far more powerful. However, the two are often
mixed . . . with powerful results.
How Revivalist Preachers Work
If you'd like to see a revivalist preacher at work, there
are probably several in your city. Go to the church or tent
early and sit in the rear, about three-quarters of the way back.
Most likely repetitive music will be played while the people
come in for the service. A repetitive beat, ideally ranging
from 45 to 72 beats per minute (a rhythm close to the beat of
the human heart), is very hypnotic and can generate an eyes-open
altered state of consciousness in a very high percentage of
people. And, once you are in an alpha state, you are at least
25 times as suggestible as you would be in full beta
consciousness. The music is probably the same for every
service, or incorporates the same beat, and many of the people
will go into an altered state almost immediately upon entering
the sanctuary. Subconsciously, they recall their state of mind
from previous services and respond according to the
Watch the people waiting for the service to begin. Many
will exhibit external signs of trance--body relaxation and
slightly dilated eyes. Often, they begin swaying back and forth
with their hands in the air while sitting in their chairs.
Next, the assistant pastor will probably come out. He usually
speaks with a pretty good "voice roll."
Voice Roll Technique
A "voice roll" is a patterned, paced style used by
hypnotists when inducing a trance. It is also used by many
lawyers, several of whom are highly trained hypnotists, when
they desire to entrench a point firmly in the minds of the
jurors. A voice roll can sound as if the speaker were talking
to the beat of a metronome or it may sound as though he were
emphasizing every word in a monotonous, patterned style. The
words will usually be delivered at the rate of 45 to 60 beats
per minute, maximizing the hypnotic effect.
Now the assistant pastor begins the "build-up" process. He
induces an altered state of consciousness and/or begins to
generate the excitement and the expectations of the audience.
Next, a group of young women in "sweet and pure" chiffon dresses
might come out to sing a song. Gospel songs are great for
building excitement and INVOLVEMENT. In the middle of the song,
one of the girls might be "smitten by the spirit" and fall down
or react as if possessed by the Holy Spirit. This very
effectively increases the intensity in the room. At this point,
hypnosis and conversion tactics are being mixed. And the result
is the audience's attention span is now totally focused upon the
communication while the environment becomes more exciting or
Right about this time, when an eyes-open mass-induced alpha
mental state has been achieved, they will usually pass the
collection plate or basket. In the background, a
45-beat-per-minute voice roll from the assistant preacher might
exhort, "Give to God . . . Give to God . . . Give to God . .
." And the audience does give. God may not get the money, but
his already wealthy representative will.
Next, the fire-and-brimstone preacher will come out. He
induces fear and increases the tension by talking about "the
devil," "going to hell," or the forthcoming Armegeddon.
In the last such rally I attended, the preacher talked
about the blood that would soon be running out of every faucet
in the land. He was also obsessed with a "bloody axe of God,"
which everyone had seen hanging above the pulpit the previous
week. I have no doubt that everyone saw it--the power of
suggestion given to hundreds of people in hypnosis assures that
at least 10 to 25 percent would see whatever he suggested they
In most revivalist gatherings, "testifying" or "witnessing"
usually follows the fear-based sermon. People from the audience
come up on stage and relate their stories. "I was crippled and
now I can walk!" "I had arthritis and now it's gone!" It is a
psychological manipulation that works. After listening to
numerous case histories of miraculous healings, the average guy
in the audience with a minor problem is sure he can be healed.
The room is charged with fear, guilt, intense excitement, and
Now those who want to be healed are frequently lined up
around the edge of the room, or they are told to come down to
the front. The preacher might touch them on the head firmly and
scream, "Be healed!" This releases the psychic energy and, for
many, catharsis results. Catharsis is a purging of repressed
emotions. Individuals might cry, fall down or even go into
spasms. And if catharsis is effected, they stand a chance of
being healed. In catharsis (one of the three brain phases
mentioned earlier), the brain-slate is temporarily wiped clean
and the new suggestion is accepted.
For some, the healing may be permanent. For many, it will
last four days to a week, which is, incidentally, how long a
hypnotic suggestion given to a somnambulistic subject will
usually last. Even if the healing doesn't last, if they come
back every week, the power of suggestion may continually
override the problem . . . or sometimes, sadly, it can mask a
physical problem which could prove to be very detrimental to the
individule in the long run.
I'm not saying that legitimate healings do not take place.
They do. Maybe the individual was ready to let go of the
negativity that caused the problem in the first place; maybe it
was the work of God. Yet I contend that it can be explained
with existing knowledge of brain/mind function.
The techniques and staging will vary from church to church.
Many use "speaking in tongues" to generate catharsis in some
while the spectacle creates intense excitement in the observers.
The use of hypnotic techniques by religions is
sophisticated, and professionals are assuring that they become
even more effective. A man in Los Angeles is designing,
building, and reworking a lot of churches around the country.
He tells ministers what they need and how to use it. This man's
track record indicates that the congregation and the monetary
income will double if the minister follows his instructions. He
admits that about 80 percent of his efforts are in the sound
system and lighting.
Powerful sound and the proper use of lighting are of
primary importance in inducing an altered state of
consciousnes--I've been using them for years in my own seminars.
However, my participants are fully aware of the process and what
they can expect as a result of their participation.
Alright. Now, let's look at the second tip-off that
indicates conversion tactics are being used. A schedule is
maintained that causes physical and mental fatigue. This is
primarily accomplished by long hours in which the participants
are given no opportunity for relaxation or reflection.
The third tip-off: techniques used to increase the tension
in the room or environment.
Number four: Uncertainty. I could spend hours relating
various techniques to increase tension and generate uncertainty.
Basically, the participants are concerned about being "put on
the spot" or encountered by the trainers, guilt feelings are
played upon, participants are tempted to verbally relate their
innermost secrets to the other participants or forced to take
part in activities that emphasize removing their masks.
They literally go into an alpha state, which automatically makes
them many times as suggestible as they normally are. And
another loop of the downward spiral into conversion is
The fifth clue that conversion tactics are being used is
the introduction of jargon--new terms that have meaning only to
the "insiders" who participate. Vicious language is also
frequently used, purposely, to make participants uncomfortable.
The final tip-off is that there is no humor in the
communications . . . at least until the participants are
converted. Then, merry-making and humor are highly desirable as
symbols of the new joy the participants have supposedly "found."
I'm not saying that good does not result from participation
in such gatherings. It can and does. But I contend it is
important for people to know what has happened and to be aware
that continual involvement may not be in their best interest.
Cult gatherings or human-potential trainings are an ideal
environment to observe first-hand what is technically called the
"Stockholm Syndrome." This is a situation in which those who
are intimidated, controlled, or made to suffer, begin to love,
admire, and even sometimes sexually desire their controllers or
But let me inject a word of warning here: If you think you
can attend such gatherings and not be affected, you are probably
wrong. A perfect example is the case of a woman who went to
Haiti on a Guggenheim Fellowship to study Haitian Voodoo. In
her report, she related how the music eventually induced
uncontrollable bodily movement and an altered state of
consciousness. Although she understood the process and thought
herself above it, when she began to feel herself become
vulnerable to the music, she attempted to fight it and turned
away. Anger or resistance almost always assures conversion. A
few moments later she was possessed by the music and began
dancing in a trance around the Voodoo meeting house. A brain
phase had been induced by the music and excitement, and she
awoke feeling reborn.The only hope of attending such
gatherings without being affected is to be a Buddha and allow no
positive or negative emotions to surface. Few people are
capable of such detachment.
Once the initial conversion is effected, cults, armed
services, and similar groups cannot have cynicism among their
members. Members must respond to commands and do as they are
told, otherwise they are dangerous to the organizational
control. This is normally accomplished as a three-step
Step One is ALERTNESS REDUCTION: The controllers cause the
nervous system to malfunction, making it difficult to
distinguish between fantasy and reality. This can be
accomplished in several ways. POOR DIET is one; watch out for
Brownies and Koolaid. The sugar throws the nervous system off.
More subtle is the "SPIRITUAL DIET" used by many cults. They
eat only vegetables and fruits; without the grounding of grains,
nuts, seeds, dairy products, fish or meat, an individual becomes
mentally "spacey." INADEQUATE SLEEP is another primary way to
reduce alertness, especially when combined with long hours of
work or intense physical activity. Also, being bombarded with
intense and unique experiences achieves the same result.
Step Two is PROGRAMMED CONFUSION: You are mentally
assaulted while your alertness is being reduced as in Step One.
This is accomplished with a deluge of new information, lectures,
discussion groups, encounters or one-to-one processing, which
usually amounts to the controller bombarding the individual with
questions. During this phase of decognition, reality and
illusion often merge and perverted logic is likely to be
Step Three is THOUGHT STOPPING: Techniques are used to
cause the mind to go "flat." These a re altered-state-of-
consciousness techniques that initially induce
calmness by giving the mind something simple to deal with and
focusing awareness. The continued use brings on a feeling of
elation and eventually hallucination. The result is the
reduction of thought and eventually, if used long enough, the
cessation of all thought and withdrawal from everyone and
everything except that which the controllers direct. The
takeover is then complete. It is important to be aware that
when members or participants are instructed to use
"thought-stopping" techniques, they are told that they will
benefit by so doing: they will become "better soldiers" or "find
There are three primary techniques used for thought
stopping. The first is MARCHING: the thump, thump, thump beat
literally generates self-hypnosis and thus great susceptibility
The second thought stopping technique is MEDITATION. If you
spend an hour to an hour and a half a day in meditation, after a
few weeks, there is a great probability that you will not return
to full beta consciousness. You will remain in a fixed state of
alpha for as long as you continue to meditate. I'm not saying
this is bad--if you do it yourself. It may be very beneficial.
But it is a fact that you are causing your mind to go flat.
I've worked with meditators on an EEG machine and the results
are conclusive: the more you meditate, the flatter your mind
becomes until, eventually and especially if used to excess or in
combination with decognition, all thought ceases. Some
spiritual groups see this as nirvana--which is bullshit. It is
simply a predictable physiological result. And if heaven on
earth is non-thinking and non-involvement, I really question why
we are here.
The third thought-stopping technique is CHANTING, and often
chanting in meditation. "Speaking in tongues" could also be
included in this category.
All three stopping techniques produce an altered state of
consciousness. This may be very good if YOU are controlling the
process, for you also control the input. But you need to know
if you use these techniques to the degree of remaining
continually in alpha that, although you'll be very mellow,
you'll also be more suggestible.
True Believers & Mass Movements
Before ending this section on conversion, I want to talk
about the people who are most susceptible to it and about Mass
Movements. I am convinced that at least a third of the
population is what Eric Hoffer calls "true believers." They are
joiners and followers . . . people who want to give away their
power. They look for answers, meaning, and enlightenment
Hoffer, who wrote THE TRUE BELIEVER, a classic on mass
movements, says, "true believers are not intent on bolstering
and advancing a cherished self, but are those craving to be rid
of unwanted self. They are followers, not because of a desire
for self-advancement, but because it can satisfy their passion
for self-renunciation!" Hoffer also says that true believers
"are eternally incomplete and eternally insecure"!
I know this from my own experience. I have run into
them again and again. All I can do is attempt to show them that
the only thing to seek is the True Self within. Their personal
answers are to be found there and there alone. I communicate
that the basics of spirituality are self-responsibility and
self-actualization. But most of the true believers just tell me
that I'm not spiritual and go looking for someone who will give
them the dogma and structure they desire.
Never underestimate the potential danger of these people.
They can easily be molded into fanatics who will gladly work and
die for their holy cause. It is a substitute for their lost
faith in themselves and offers them as a substitute for
individual hope. The Moral Majority is made up of true
believers. All cults are composed of true believers. You'll
find them in politics, churches, businesses, and social cause
groups. They are the fanatics in these organizations.
Mass Movements will usually have a charismatic leader. The
followers want to convert others to their way of living or
impose a new way of life--if necessary, by legislating laws
forcing others to their view, as evidenced by the activities of
the Moral Majority.This means enforcement by guns or
punishment, for that is the bottomline in law enforcement.
A common hatred, enemy, or devil is essential to the
success of a mass movement. The Born-Again Christians have
Satan himself, but that isn't enough--they've added the occult,
the New Age thinkers and, lately, all those who oppose their
integration of church and politics, as evidenced in their
political reelection campaigns against those who oppose their
views. In revolutions, the devil is usually the ruling power or
aristocracy. Some human-potential movements are far too clever
to ask their graduates to join anything, thus labeling
themselves as a cult--but, if you look closely, you'll find that
their devil is anyone and everyone who hasn't taken their
There are mass movements without devils but they seldom
attain major status. The True Believers are mentally unbalanced
or insecure people, or those without hope or friends. People
don't look for allies when they love, but they do when they hate
or become obsessed with a cause. And those who desire a new
life and a new order feel the old ways must be eliminated before
the new order can be built.
The Hare Krishnas, operating in every airport, use what I
call SHOCK AND CONFUSION techniques to distract the left brain
and communicate directly with the right brain. While waiting
for a plane, I once watched one operate for over an hour. He
had a technique of almost jumping in front of someone.
Initially, his voice was loud then dropped as he made his pitch
to take a book and contribute money to the cause. Usually, when
people are shocked, they immediately withdraw. In this case
they were shocked by the strange appearance, sudden
materialization and loud voice of the Hare Krishna devotee. In
other words, the people went into an alpha state for security
because they didn't want to confront the reality before them.
In alpha, they were highly suggestible so they responded to the
suggestion of taking the book; the moment they took the book,
they felt guilty and responded to the second suggestion: give
money. We are all conditioned that if someone gives us
something, we have to give them something in return--in that
case, it was money. While watching this hustler, I was close
enough to notice that many of the people he stopped exhibited an
outward sign of alpha--their eyes were actually dilated.